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How do you think about God when the news comes that your second child—like your first—will be born with spina bifida?

Josh McPherson, lead preaching pastor at Grace Covenant Church in Wenatchee, WA, reflects on his theological journey through pain and suffering:

I used to say, years ago, when people would ask how I reconciled evil and suffering with the reality of a loving God, I’d say something like, “God did not cause it, but He can use it for good.” However, that answer quickly let me down. After 6 pregnancies in 6 years, 2 ending in difficult mis-carriages, a third coming dangerously close, and 2 resulting in severe birth defects, I do not say that any more. Primarily because I don’t believe it to be true.

This video is a clip from his announcement to the church (January 29, 2012) about the diagnosis.

I would encourage you to read or listen to the full sermon. It is a wonderful testimony of God’s sustaining grace.

Gideon Joshua McPherson was born Friday night, May 4, and is fighting like a champ. You can follow the CaringBridge page here.

HT: Mark Driscoll

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16 thoughts on “When the Anchor Holds: Or, Why I No Longer Say “God Didn’t Cause This Birth Defect in My Child””

  1. Praise God for this wonderful testimony! How wonderful it is to see this brother so satisfied in God, so gladdened by His glory, that by it he is strengthened to suffer even the most difficult trials with joy and confidence. This makes God look really good.

    Calvin said it wonderfully in the Institutes (I.xvii.11):

    “This, I say, is the believer’s comfort, that his heavenly Father so embraces all things under his power—so governs them at will by his nod—so regulates them by his wisdom, that nothing takes place save according to his appointment; that received into his favour, and intrusted to the care of his angels, neither fire, nor water, nor sword, can do him harm, except in so far as God their master is pleased to bring upon him. … Give heed, and you will at once perceive that ignorance of Providence is the greatest of all miseries, and the knowledge of it the highest happiness.”

  2. P Ashhurst says:

    Wonderful. I read the full sermon and was very encouraged. How great is our God.

  3. J. Campbell says:

    So glad I stumbled across this. My wife and I listened to it the entire message this morning, since we’re home from church with sick kids.

    Our son Michael was born with severe spina bifida a year ago this coming Saturday, and we can so identify with Josh and his wife … not only with the disappointment, but also with the joy of knowing our God is in control and allowed this for his glory and our sanctification. Michael’s spina bifida has been one of the best things to happen to our family, because it has drawn us closer to our God.

  4. L Reynolds says:

    Absolutely beautiful. What a gift of faith! Thanks, Jason, so much for sharing and encouraging us to trust God and delight in His ways at all times. Praying for you and yours.

  5. Alvin Morrell says:

    I sympathize greatly for our brother, but wonder if after “6 pregnancies in 6 years, 2 ending in difficult mis-carriages, a third coming dangerously close, and 2 resulting in severe birth defects”, if Josh should start to think there may be a defect in either his or his wife’s genetic code that’s leading to the prenatal developmental tragedies?

    Is this much different than the parent than the parent that refuses medical treatment for his child in the place of prayer?

    1. Danny says:

      Alvin, Perhaps you and your wife(if married) had everything planned out according to the sex and number of kids. Congratulations! For the some of us, it doesn’t always happen that way. Congratulations to pastor Josh as the Lord has seen fit to show him His power in weakness.

  6. momofsons says:

    I admire his heart for the Lord, but wonder about the theology of suffering. Does God send rape and domestic violence too? or does He allow it for His purposes. Thinking that He would design evil seems wrong. confused

    1. danny says:

      What’s your answer for suffering? Fashionable to ask Sovereign believing Christians while offering no answer for suffering yourself. It was suffering that set us free, aye. Jesus suffered.

    2. Arminian says:

      Amen momofsons. It is too bad that he started out with the right theology about it but moved to a less biblical stance through misinterpretation of Scripture. Nevertheless, praise God that he is trusting in the Lord with these difficult issues. We don’t have to have perfect theology to trust in the Lord and be spiritually healthy and glorify him.

      1. Matt Grotheer says:

        On a related note, an important question to ask: Did God want Jesus to suffer? If you say no, then read Isaiah 53:10 says (in reference to Jesus) “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief.” If you say yes, then why can we not say that God wants us to suffer, for our good?

        All throughout the NT, suffering is portrayed in a good light for Christians, namely because it has a purpose which is to conform us to the image of Christ. (A few texts to check out are Romans 5,8, James 1, and Hebrews 2,12).

  7. Tamara Slack says:

    I’m so grateful for this testimony. I’m so glad to see such faith in trying times. I suffer greatly and am bedridden due to mercury and arsenic poisoning and nearly went to be with the Lord in 2010. I have studied the human body for several years now and we will never know all the answers to how intricately and beautifully we have been made by God, but there are some things He has revealed to us that can help us.

    I have worked with several women that have had miscarriages and babies born very sick or with autism, etc. and have been able to impart what the Lord has taught me. One lady couldn’t get pregnant for 10 years no matter what they did – now she is about to give birth to her first – amen! I won’t give advice here on your blog, but if the mother / father of this child would like to talk to me, I can be emailed at

    God surely does things for a reason – He even brings calamity. I believe, usually, it is to bring His children to a deeper faith in Him (I say this as I lay in bed barely able to move and no one to come help me – my 69 yr old husband has to do most everything). I know the depths of suffering and the deep, deep faith that comes out of suffering. And God has granted me knowledge to help people become well or at least more well than they were – unfortunately it *may* be too late for me to ever get totally well, but I’m glad to impart the nutritional and physical understanding of illness to others (especially to women who keep having miscarriages or are suffering from physical fatigue).

    Blessings to this family and I will be praying for the little one and all who are affected by this. May God be glorified no matter what.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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